From executive producer/writer Mindy Kaling, the Hulu original series Four Weddings and a Funeral follows Maya (Nathalie Emmanuel), the communications director for a New York senatorial campaign, who heads to London for the wedding of her best friend from college (Rebecca Rittenhouse). While reconnecting with old friends and finding common ground with new ones, Maya realizes that her personal life is not what she pictured for herself. And with all of these personal crises going on, for herself and her friends, the only thing that’s certain is that, like the title suggests, there will be four weddings and a funeral.
While at the Hulu portion of the Television Critics Association Press Tour, Collider got the opportunity to sit down with co-stars Nathalie Emmanuel and Nikesh Patel (who plays Kash, the finance of Ainsley and someone who also isn’t happy with the direction his life is headed), who talked about the fun of taking a film that’s loved and shaking things up a bit, what they thought of the film the series was inspired by, why these characters are relatable, the representation and diversity among the cast and in the storytelling, exploring friendship and relationship dynamics, and what they enjoy about the journey of their characters.
Collider: You guys both come from big, sweeping, epic stories, with Game of Thrones and Indian Summers, and one of the fun things about this show is that it’s a smaller story about this group of friends and their communication with each other.
NIKESH PATEL: Yeah, totally. This feels very modern, in a way that’s really exciting, and in a way that I think audiences are going to connect with. We’re not looking to just remount the film. That would be a bit pointless. This is about taking what people love about the film, and what Mindy Kaling has done is put a very modern spin on that. It’s about being in your 30s and not knowing if you’re getting the most from your life, and trying to find fulfillment and friendships.
NATHALIE EMMANUEL: The major difference, for me, is that it’s a much smaller piece, in terms of the scale of it, and I just had more to explore. I was very grateful for the little scenes that I got in Game of Thrones, but we had less time, essentially, to explore some of the important moments. In this, we have much more time to delve into the messy stuff, which is great fun.
This seems like more of a concept that you can put any number of characters in, as opposed to having to stay so true to the movie.
PATEL: Yeah. The only thing that we stay true to, if you like, is the fact that there are four weddings and one funeral. But apart from that, it’s a pretty open playing field, in terms of what the writers wanted to do with the story. That was freeing. None of these characters are a version of so-and-so from the film, which was very freeing. Added to that, we then get to have fun. The writers are very smart and very funny and very steeped in rom-coms, and we get to play, quite affectionately, with lots of nods, not just to Four Weddings, but other Richard Curtis films and other classic rom-coms. And sometimes, we pull the rug a little bit and not do what people are expecting. It’s great to offer something that’s engaging to watch that isn’t going to rip your guts out, particularly now.
When something like this came your way, with this title attached, were you a little hesitant about it, until you read it? What was your own history with the film?
EMMANUEL: I’d definitely seen it a few times, over the years, but there’s no way that you can make this thing and make it the same, or a carbon copy of the original. That just wouldn’t make sense to do that. To be honest with you, my major appeal was the fact that Mindy Kaling is behind it, writing it. That just gave me hope that it was going to be a fun, cool version of something that we already love. There can be intimidation that comes with creating something and doing something new with such a legacy, but you can love both. We had that conversation a lot on Game of Thrones, about the books or the show, and you can appreciate them both, in their own right, and that very much applies here too. We’ve just brought it very much into 2019. It’s fun. If people are expecting a carbon copy of the original, they’re just not going to get it.
Everybody knows people who have been through things like these characters, or have been themselves.
PATEL: Right, yeah. In a lighthearted way, they’re very human things that these characters are grappling with. There’s something about the inclusivity of the cast and the diversity of our cast that’s really important, at a time where there’s so much hate being spread, and so much tribalism, and focusing on what makes us different. The show is a love letter to London, but it’s also a love letter to a world where people that look like us can fall in love, which is not very present in a lot of the classic rom-coms. We’re all swirling about in it together, and sometimes you make bad decisions.
EMMANUEL: We’re all just figuring it out. It doesn’t matter what color you are, or what god or gods you believe in, or who you love, we’re all just figuring it out. Sometimes you make a mess of it, and sometimes you find true love, and that’s great.
And Maya seems to continue making a mess of it.
EMMANUEL: Maya’s a big old mess, for a lot of the series. She’s just trying her very best, but it doesn’t matter what she does, she makes bad choices. But I think that’s very true for a lot of people, especially during a certain period of life. You make mistakes, you do things that hurt people, and you have to figure out exactly who it is you want to be in the world, and Maya absolutely does that, in this. It was really fun for me because I could relate to that. It’s also balancing life, love, friends, career, and how you prioritize those things. I’m very, very used to having to juggle. And there was a time when there was just no time for any of the other stuff, and it was just about work. That can have its negative impact on your life and your well-being. Maya and I have those things in common.
PATEL: You don’t get to see that nuanced portrayal of female characters that often.
EMMANUEL: Absolutely not. We always have to be really likable, and quiet, and not very troublesome. She’s got to be the perfect girl.
PATEL: There were so many things for me in this, as well, that felt really new, like being a well-rounded human being that has aspirations and makes flawed decisions, but also this isn’t a drama where the brown guy is presented as a threat to a Western way of life. That’s not the reality that I, or any of us know, but has somehow become a trope that is unquestioned on TV. Kash is in the process of reconnecting with his roots and his family, and also his childhood best friend, which is the real romance on this show – the bromance between me and Guz Khan. It was really rare for me to be part of a show like this, but then, also, my best friend is brown. It feels really insignificant to point that out, but it felt really real, and it also felt quite new. There are so many of those examples, of how experiences that aren’t maybe centered in these kinds of stories, get room to really live and breathe.
I also love the family relationship that Kash has.
PATEL: He’s got the cutest dad in the world, in the form of Harish Patel.
EMMANUEL: It’s too much. He’s too much. He’s so cute, and brilliant, and funny, and just a legend.
PATEL: And it’s the second time that he’s played my dad, which is amazing. That’s a very good example of where we’re a Muslim family and people from that cultural background, whether you’re South Asian or specifically Muslim, will watch that and go, “Yes, that’s my family! That house is decorated like my parents’ house is.” But also, anyone will connect to having an adorable yet slightly manipulative dad. That’s very universal. IT’s a quietly brilliant thing about this show, that we show this family and it’s not about, “Look how different they are,” but they’re the stand-in for the family unit.
What did you enjoy about exploring the dynamic between your characters?
PATEL: It’s an interesting paradox because, at the point that we meet, we’re able, very quickly, to be very honest with each other, which is quite a rare quality to find with any human being.
EMMANUEL: Sometimes it’s easier to be completely honest with a stranger because you’ll never see them again. That’s what that interaction is. You’re like, “If I tell this one person one of my deepest, darkest secrets or desires or feelings, there’s no way that it’s going to come back to the people that actually are in my life.” That’s what happened with these two. And they also connected over something that they have in common, which is the fact that they both lost their mother. That inspired Kash to share his hopes and dreams, and things he would never say out loud to anyone in his life, including his girlfriend, apparently. It’s one of those rare meet cutes that happen, but it’s because they’re strangers. That’s the only way it could have happened. But then, the fact that they’re thrown together again, after that, sparks something else, which is to be determined, over the ten episodes.
PATEL: At the point that they meet each other, it’s so much about timing. You’re just like, “Oh, god, this could have gone so much better,” but they’re going through their own respective shit and it does catalyze something in both their heads. Something has happened, with this encounter, that just makes him go, “Am I living my life for other people?” And then, he makes a very big decision, based off that.